U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet: Making government more efficient, effective and accountable in 2015
Washington is traditionally mired in gridlock and political games. And it’s no secret that despite some victories for Colorado, last Congress was the least productive in modern history. Now, as the new year ushers in a new Congress, there is renewed potential for compromise and collaboration. If Washington can move past the partisanship, there is plenty we can accomplish.
Our office is working with Republicans and Democrats on a host of issues important to Coloradans that will make government more efficient, effective and accountable.
With tightening budgets and unreliable federal support, local governments across the state are looking for innovative ways to finance infrastructure projects. These projects are critical to our local communities and our economy. he American Society of Civil Engineers scored Colorado’s infrastructure at a C+ and rated the nation a D+.
We’ve teamed up with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, to help. Our bill, the Partnership to Build America Act, without spending federal dollars, would create an infrastructure bank to help communities maintain or build new roads, highways, bridges, schools, water conduits, tunnels and other projects. It’d be funded through bonds U.S. companies would purchase in exchange for allowing them to exclude a certain portion of their overseas earnings from taxation. This bill could help put people back to work on projects important to Coloradans like the expansion of public transit in the Denver Metro area or building the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
We are working with Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander on a bill to simplify the process for applying for college financial aid. Countless college students and their families have suffered through the 10 page, 108 question FAFSA form. We’re proposing a plan to reduce the current form to two questions. This dramatically streamlined form would encourage more students to apply for aid and allow more students to access higher education.
We’ve met with and heard from students, parents, high school and college administrators, and financial aid advisors across the state to discuss the challenges of the current form. From Pueblo Community College to Front Range Community College to Metropolitan State University, there is a resounding and overwhelming desire for a more efficient process. At a time when other countries are making it easier to attend college, our priority should be ensuring that higher education is as accessible as possible to as many students as possible. This bill will save families across the nation millions of hours so they can focus on preparing their kids for success in higher education.
We also wrote a bill with U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to make government programs more accountable and effective through social impact bonds and pay for success contracts. The Pay-For-Performance Act will help states and communities achieve better results with less cost to taxpayers.
Under the model we’ve proposed, a local government enters into a contract with a provider that commits to delivering a set of services that are more effective and cost less than the results the government is currently receiving. An investor funds the project and is reimbursed with interest when the project meets its goals. If the providers don’t deliver the results they promised, the taxpayers are off the hook and the investors are not reimbursed. Social impact bonds encourage innovation and more effective programs and services while keeping the risk away from taxpayers.
In the coming year we will continue to work on these bills as well as many others to cut government bureaucracy and red tape so it works better for the people it serves. We’ll also keep up our fight on a number of ongoing issues important to Coloradans including an extension to the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit, long-term funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program, fixing our broken immigration system, completing the VA hospital in Aurora, and making reforms to the Veterans Affairs administration to ensure our veterans are receiving the services they have earned.
If we can work together and embrace the opportunity for progress in this new congress we can enact meaningful change for Coloradans.
Michael Bennet is a Democrat in U.S. Senator for Colorado.
The deadline to vote is Monday, May 20.